Farewell to the Texas Exes Scholars

As a 30-year-old scholarship program gives way to new things, one scholar reflects on how the Texas Exes family shaped his world.

Next spring 8,000 Longhorns will gather on the Main Mall for Commencement, bidding a final farewell to the burnt-orange Tower that has guided them home the past four years. Ten of those students, myself included, are Texas Exes Scholars who will be forever in the University’s debt.

The Texas Exes Awards for Scholarship and Leadership began in 1982—the dream of the late Lowell Lebermann, ’57, Life Member, who hoped to help UT attract more top high school graduates.

When former Texas Exes director of scholarships and donor relations Eleanor Moore, BS ’67, Life Member, started work in 1986, the awards were worth $2,500 apiece. Through 10 named endowments, the program was eventually able to give up to $10,000 per year for four years to high school seniors with outstanding academic and leadership qualities. That much money changes lives. For me, it was the answer to my mother’s prayer that I emerge from college without huge debts to repay. For others, like scholar Brian Martinez, it was the only way he could get through college, period.

Yet money is not the program’s main draw. To keep the best brains in Texas, the Texas Exes offered students something they couldn’t find in the Ivy League: a family.

The Texas Exes staff and donors collaborated to create an “extended family” for the scholars, checking in on us and planning outings. A campus of 50,000 shrunk to a family of 30 brothers and sisters. Lebermann and Mike Myers, BBA ’59, LLB ’63, Life Member, took the scholars for a ride on Lebermann’s barge each fall and on a different trip each spring.

The spring trips are my best memories of the program. We ran across sunny beaches in South Padre Island. We went dancing at Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth and talked about our dreams on long bus rides home. We cared about each other. It was everything I had hoped for when I tossed out every other university’s acceptance letter.

All of us shared a sense that we had been invested in. On one bus ride home, I talked to scholar Josh Calloway, BA ’12, about the future. “None of us can say that we haven’t been given something,” Calloway said. “None of us can say that we did this on our own.” And because of that, we have an obligation to give back to the University.

Though the Texas Exes Awards are coming to an end, their mission will continue. Kristy Kimball— associate director of the program’s bigger-and-better replacement, the Forty Acres Scholars program—has an office overflowing with new applications.

The Forty Acres Scholars Program takes the Texas Exes Awards to the next level. It’s the first four-year, full-ride, merit-based scholarship program in UT history. And in addition to funding for tuition, books, and living expenses, Forty Acres Scholars get help with service learning, study abroad, and summer internships.

We all feel optimistic about the new program. “We always hoped to have a program of this magnitude,” Moore says. “And the Texas Exes Scholars were the building blocks that brought us to this point.”

Photos, from top: Texas Exes Scholars on a spring trip to Monterrey,Mexico, in 1995; Lowell Lebermann with scholars; Donor Jon Newton with a scholar; Margaret C. Berry and scholars; Myers and scholar Jeremy Goldman in 1992; Margaret C. Berry and 1998 Scholars; Lowell Lebermann with scholars; Donors Frank and Mollie Maresh with winners of the 2010 Scholarship Olympics; Margaret C. Berry and Scholars.

 

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